Rockets 100, Magic 93 - Role Players Win Seventh Straight for Houston

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On back-to-back nights, James Harden faced familiar faces from his days in Oklahoma City; this time against Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green (remember Jeff Green?!). Harden had an off night (but still almost posted a triple double) and Eric Gordon really struggled shooting the ball (3/16 from three), but the role players –namely, Patrick Beverley and Ryan Anderson – took center stage to give Houston its seventh straight win.

The Rockets, who are the best first quarter team in terms of offensive rating, got off to a really slow start for the third straight game. Houston looked really fatigued from last night’s thriller against the Thunder (and the flight to Orlando, probably) and the shooting reflected that. The Rockets only shot 35% from the field, including only hitting three of 13 attempts from beyond the arc (23.1%). The poor shooting was accompanied by sluggish play offensively as Houston committed six turnovers – the majority of which came on errant passes out of bounds to players who were out of position. The Orlando Magic ended the opening period with a 22-19 lead.

The Rockets opened the second quarter on a 17-6 run that gave them a 36-28 lead (their largest lead of the game). The run was sparked by the energy of Sam Dekker, who scored five points and hauled in six rebounds (four of them on the offensive side of the glass) in the first half, and Patrick Beverley, who finished the half with eight points and six rebounds. Unfortunately, Houston’s outside shooting problems continued in the period as they mirrored their first quarter output – they hit only three of their 13 attempts in the period. James Harden missed all five of his attempts and Eric Gordon, the NBA’s leading three-point shooter, was only 2/11.

D.J. Augustin’s scoring prowess (he scored all 16 of his points in the second) and Nikola Vucevic’s control on the glass (11 rebounds at halftime) allowed the Magic to close the last six minutes of the first half on a 24-8 run. Orlando went into halftime with a 52-44 lead.

After Evan Fournier made a free throw at the start of the third quarter, the Rockets went on a 12-0 run in less than two minutes to regain the lead, 56-53. The run consisted of Houston making their first three from downtown (two from Ryan Anderson and one from Trevor Ariza) and Montrezl Harrell converting an and-one dunk. The Magic traded a couple of baskets with the Rockets and followed with a 9-0 run of their own. Houston responded with six straight points to tie the game at 64.

Ryan Anderson, who played three seasons with the Magic, is familiar with the Amway Center and scored 17 points in the third period, hitting all six of his shot attempts – including five from downtown. The Rockets outscored Orlando by 12 and ended the third quarter up 79-75.

The fourth quarter was a little uneventful, especially after Houston’s three-point shooting cooled off after the third. Nonetheless, the Rockets managed to hold onto their lead for the entire period even after the game stagnated and Orlando threatened to make a comeback. Houston only shot 30.6% from the three-point line and looked dead tired, but they yet again fought to pull up a tough victory.

Despite off games from James Harden and Eric Gordon, Houston’s role players really propelled the Rockets to this win. Patrick Beverley and Sam Dekker provided some much needed energy, Ryan Anderson sparked a huge third quarter (that essentially won the Rockets the game), and Trevor Ariza quietly contributed 13 points and six rebounds.

Houston takes their seven-game winning streak to the Great White North on Sunday to take on Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors in Drake’s neighborhood.

Game Ball 

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Friday’s game ball goes to Patrick Beverley.

Patrick Beverley is having one hell of a season for the Rockets, despite some health problems. Playing with a wrist injury on his shooting hand (an injury that hurts every time he takes a shot), Beverley has been absolutely essential to the Rockets winning the last two games. On Friday, he scored 17 points on 77.8% shooting (75% from three), hoarded nine rebounds (four offensively), and posted three steals. In the last two games, Beverley has hit six of his eight attempted threes – remarkable, given his injury.

There’s not much more to say about Beverley’s importance to this team. It’s obvious to Rockets fans that Wolverine is a key cog to a championship contender.

Side note: any chance Beverley’s wrist injury stems from the adamantium claws growing under his skin?

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